It’s almost been a month since I’ve been home from Jerusalem. The next group has come and gone and are now living in my home. In a way I don’t like that, “that is MY home!”. But in a way I am so excited for a new group to get to have the same experience as me and share the blessings of living in the Old City. It’s very bittersweet to be home. I am now in the BFA which will keep me very busy for the next two years and I am so honored and grateful to be in the program. This will change my life as much as Jerusalem did. But Jerusalem will always be a part of my life and I will never ever forget it.
As I was reading my friends email who just got to Jerusalem it was fun to hear her excitement and have the same experience of my first time walking down those streets. Walking on the huge polished cobble stones, some centuries old, and smelling dozens of different things all at once from soap to smoke to spice to licorice to leather and hearing the commotion of people with all kinds of different languages and the Middle Eastern music all around. Meeting so many people who are so devoted and passionate about their religion and culture. I learned so many things as I was in Israel but I think I can narrow it down to three.
I have gained respect for other religions and honor them and their ways of worship.
I was able to meet and see so many people and what every single person had, Jew, Muslim, Christian, was their passion and devotion to their God. And I can learn from them in how I worship the Lord. One place I really loved was the Western Wall. It was so grand and tall and the courtyard around was always filled with people. As you walk towards the wall men and women split to their sides and you can tell that the Jewish people really respect and worship this place. The wall is the closest place to the Second Temple’s Holy of Holies and so the Western Wall has become a symbol of their temple. This wall is like their temple. It is the closest thing they have to a temple. What would we do without our temples? As I got to touch the wall I respected how much they loved and came to pray here. A tradition at the Western Wall is as you leave, you walk backwards so to never turn your back to the Wall symbolizing never turning your back to God. I always tried to respect others and so I would always walk backwards, but it had such symbolic meaning to me. These people came and left with such respect for their place of worship and now, as I’ve come home and been able to come to my temple again and it’s beautiful walls, I approach it with much greater love and respect than I ever have before. I honor the other religions I came into contact with at my time there and have learned from their example how to have more passion and devotion to the Lord.
I learned what I know about Old and New Testament and how I know it
Through my study of Old Testament and New Testament I learned a lot and studied the scriptures. But through my classes and my time in Jerusalem, my testimony of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and the Restored Gospel strengthened so much. Now that doesn’t really make sense at all right? We learned to question principles and ask what do we know. How do we know it? We wouldn’t know much at all about the Old Testament without the Pearl of Great Price to help us out on the plain and precious parts lost. We wouldn’t have a full understanding of principles Jesus taught or what the keys of the kingdom meant that he gave to Peter, and most importantly, what truly happened on that dark night in Gethsemane and what it meant. That is what separates us from other religions, the knowledge that we have from the Book of Mormon that Joseph Smith restored, that Jesus suffered for our sins, our trials, and the wrath of God so we wouldn’t have to and the Book of Mormon connects the dots for so many principles that we believe today. What I know, and how I know it, comes from the Restored Scriptures and I do not know what I would do without them.
I think one of the most important lessons I learned was something my New Testament teacher in Provo told my class before I came to Jerusalem.
“It is good to walk where Jesus walked, but it is better to walk where Jesus walks.”
When I got on the plane to Jerusalem, I was so excited thinking, I get to walk where Jesus walked, I get to touch the ground he touched! As we spent 3 and a half months going on field trips though, we all learned that that wasn’t really true. We were either 60 feet above where Jesus walked because throughout history things were just built on top of one another and built up and also most places are just traditional spots that commemorate something that happened nearby. We aren’t even sure of the spot Jesus was crucified, let alone the spot where he gave a sermon or healed someone. We ended up saying we were in Jesus’ airspace. Although we didn’t exactly walk where Jesus walked I got to sit at the Mount of Beatitudes and read his Sermon in Matthew 5, I felt the Spirit manifest so powerfully to me that Jesus lived here and spoke these words. My testimony grew so much on my trip to Jerusalem. And it wasn’t because I got to walk where He walked, it wasn’t because I got to see what He saw, it was because I studied the scriptures, I opened my heart to the Spirit, and I sincerely wanted to change and become a better disciple of Christ. You don’t need to go to Jerusalem to do that, but I think the Lord knew I needed a big push like Jerusalem to help me gain that knowledge and testimony. Now that I am back in Provo, I get to go to the temple and walk where Jesus walks today. The first time I walked in I had that same Spirit, all the way over in Jerusalem, come back to me and I knew this was Christ’s home too.
I hope that I can bless others from my experience in Jerusalem, just as Elder Holland said to do. Not many people get to see the Holy Land, but I hope through me, and my example, they can see how it has changed my life and that it can change theirs too. Jerusalem will always have a part of my heart and will always remember what I experienced there and it will change my life forever.